Poland is preparing for important parliamentary elections. And the opposition is rioting. At the weekend, several hundred thousand to a million people took to the streets of Warsaw. According to many of them, another mandate for the current right-wing nationalist government would lead the country into even greater isolation. But sharp outbursts also come from the government camp.
What you will also hear in today’s episode at 5:59
- What the Polish election campaign looks like and what topics are typical for it.
- Why polls do not provide a clear answer to how the elections in Poland will turn out.
- What bothers the opposition in the current government of the Law and Justice party.
A strongly divided and polarized society. This is what contemporary Poland looks like, according to a journalist from the local radio station TOK FM Jakub Medek. At the same time, according to him, the trend is particularly noticeable in the last eight years, when the Law and Justice party (PiS) with its chairman Jarosław Kaczyński is in government. “The closer to the elections, the more the polarization deepens,” says Medek. In an interview for the 5:59 podcast, however, he adds that in the current state of affairs, further deterioration is hardly discernible.
Polarization was visible, for example, last weekend, when a massive anti-government demonstration called the March of a Million Hearts took place in Warsaw. In front of hundreds of thousands of people, the leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk from the Civic Platform (PO) also spoke in Warsaw’s central square. He appealed to the Poles to come to the polls on Sunday, October 15.
Poland is heading into an election that could determine its future in the European Union.
Ahead of the vote, hundreds of thousands of people joined an opposition rally in Warsaw to protest against the ruling party’s policies. pic.twitter.com/k3Z5VmCydx
— DW News (@dwnews) October 1, 2023
According to Medek, low voter turnout is a traditional problem of Polish elections. “When it exceeds 50 or 55 percent, it is an extraordinary event for everyone,” the journalist describes, adding a personal experience from his surroundings. “I live in northeastern Poland, relatively close to the Belarusian border. And when I talk to my neighbors, for a large part of them, the election is popularly said to be stolen.”
According to his experience, although people are dissatisfied with partial things – for example, expensive energy or high inflation – they do not associate them with specific political parties. However, those Poles who are interested in the elections are faced with the decision of whether to support the continuity of the current government headed by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, on which Kaczyński also has a great influence. Or whether to give another chance to the opposition, especially the one united in the Civic Coalition, whose most visible figure is Donald Tusk.
Many surveys for nothing
However, getting an overview of the balance of power is not so easy. According to Jakub Medek, the election polls in Poland rather complicate the situation. There are a lot of them. “Practically every day we have some other research. However, if we take the average from them, it is around 35 percent for Law and Justice and around 27 or 29 percent for the Civic Platform,” he calculates.
Even if it would seem that PiS is clearly leading, in practice it would need many more votes. If the elections were to turn out as the polls suggest, Kaczyński’s party will win, but it will not be able to form a government by dividing the seats in the parliament.
It is not only the Civic Platform that stands against Law and Justice, but also the Left and the conservative-liberal Third Way coalition consisting of the People’s Party and the Poland 2050 movement. In surveys, these parties, together with the far-right Confederation, each have around ten percent.
Other programs, similarly negative campaign
However, the situation regarding the atmosphere in which the pre-election battle is taking place is clear. According to Medek, the two strongest blocs – both the ruling Law and Justice and the opposition Civic Coalition – are running a campaign based primarily on fear. According to PiS, it is about scaring voters with the possible return of Donald Tusk, who is said to strengthen the country’s dependence on Germany, or that under his rule, Poland will allegedly have to accept refugees, while the state will not take care of its own people.
However, the negative style also applies to the other side. According to the journalist, the opposition emphasizes that if Law and Justice wins the election, there will be further destruction of the Polish judiciary and the conflict with the European Union will deepen.
However, Jakub Medek admits that sometimes the programmatic priorities of individual parties flash through the campaign. “PiS talks more about small, but important things for citizens. They have, for example, insulation of prefabricated houses in the program. The civic platform then talks about investments in healthcare or education,” concludes a radio journalist from Poland.
In the 5:59 podcast, you will also learn where Poland has moved under the rule of the Law and Justice party or whether the government and the opposition have equal conditions for their presentation in the media before the elections. Listen in the player at the beginning of the article.
Editor a koeditor: Matěj Válek, Barbora Sochorová, Karolina Tremko
Sound design and music: Martin Hůla
Sources of audio samples: ČT24, Český rozhlas Plus, Český rozhlas Radiožurnál, YouTube – Wirtualna Polska, YT – Donald Tusk – official channel, YT – Law and Justice, YT – Sławomir Mentzen
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